A model with difference

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More from Life class. This time our model was in costume, a là Charlie Chaplin: black top, pants, a boater and long cane. Her point of difference were blue socks and Doc Marten shoes. We didn’t use willow charcoal to start this time, although we were to sketch on A1 sheets of newsprint as usual. A 6B or softer was the order of the day, and contour was the expectation. I loved the way the model had a good sense of her body and how to place it. She stood for the first half of the class, and we began with short poses. The idea with the first sketch was to try and keep the pencil on the paper and make as few lines as possible to form the figure. Our tutor is keen on putting pressure on the lead, so the line is as dark as we can produce. My instincts are for a softer line, but I was keen to try something different.

Using one pencil on left; using two together on right

And then, we were asked to do something I’d never done before, to hold two pencils leads together, and sketch as before. This sounds easier than it is in practice, as one pencil was shorter than the other, and had to keep juggling the points so they were even. However, it proved interesting, and was rather fun. The interesting part was how the sketch affected my sight. It was if I were entering a migraine! Did I enjoy drawing this way? What I did know was…

I was ready to put familiar ways of drawing aside, and made myself open to the the unknown. For years, I had developed a certain approach to drawing the figure, and here, I was faced with challenges to that view. It felt weird to draw with two pencils, but I did it.

It is easy to stick with what you know, and I was pleased to have tried something different.

The focus was on line for the morning, and a switch from graphite to charcoal pencil.

Next, we were to look at doing a close-up of hands. I trashed the first sketch, where the model was holding the cane with both hands on the handle. Scribble was the result of that one.

Soft charcoal pencil

Next pose, I chose a close-up of one hand. It was easier, but still tricky with the claw-like shape and a thumb hooked in the belt. I couldn’t help pop some finger smudge on this one, as it’s something I like do. But, when it was suggested we look at others’ work, I saw my drawing was alien to the rest, who must have listened to the tutor. So, with the following pose I followed the brief better.

However, I ran out of time to include the left arm and leg. Oh well. But I was pleased I’d used a different technique to my usual. Back to something quick at the end. That in itself is unusual.

I worked fast, and kind of crazy with the charcoal. But hey! It was fun.

Willow charcoal stick

12 thoughts on “A model with difference

  1. When I taught young dance teachers I always pointed out that limitation is the key to creativity. Working with less material, steps or whatever will pull one out of a comfortable zone, and open doors to new ideas.
    And how your sketches prove this!!. I love them; most especially the last fast, charcoal sketch. This figure moves, rotates and is so genuinely active. Experimenting can be such fun.


  2. Awesome sketches Vivienne. I do like challenging myself by trying something very different as you did holding two pencils. I must try that next time I attempt a sketch. The effect is quite pleasing!


  3. I am very impressed by your hands, Vivienne. I tend to copy Francis Bacon on that point and kind of blur them about a bit. Yours are strong and with a clear line. A real inspiration for me to give it a try in life drawing too.


    • Thanks Phil. I’ve drawn my own hands many times. Try placing your non-dominant hand on desk (for instance), and sketch lightly to start. Change the pose often. Then, settle fora pose which feels best and try some detail.


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